It has been referred to as the “third pillar of health” along with nutrition and exercise though many people disregard it. I am talking about something that none of us can live without: sleep.
Chances are that you (and those around you) can tell the difference when you are well rested or not. Sleep is essential to protecting your physical and mental health, and without it our moods, eating habits and overall energy is affected. I once learned that there is no such thing as “catching up” on sleep. You get one shot at the end of each night to do your body and mind some good. Now of course, I am not discounting the importance of naps when you need them, but it is in the interest of your health to have a regular sleep schedule.
The Benefits of Sleep
There are numerous benefits to getting the recommended 7-9 hours each night. Recent studies have revealed that while you are asleep, your brain is still active. This means it is preparing for future actions, creating memories and even clearing out toxins. Enough sleep enables us to focus, remember and make good decisions. Research at the University of California San Diego even suggested sleeping an extra hour each night could increase your average earnings by 16%.
On the other side of things, sleep deprivation can harm your health in many ways. Some short term effects of sleep deprivation include impaired sense of judgement, unstable emotions, increase in appetite and loss of focus. More serious than that, long term effects of chronic sleep loss include: high blood pressure, weakened immune system, increased risk for depression, anxiety and serious heart problems.
As of February of this year, the National Sleep Foundation released new recommendations for durations based on how sleep relates to health, performance and safety. You can find the full chart here but for most adults ages 18-64 the recommendation is 7-9 hours each night.
You should ask yourself – are you really prioritizing sleep? It is easy to forget about it if you already fill your schedule with work, exercise, focusing on healthy eating and extracurricular activities. But you should recognize that it is just as important. Without an efficient sleep schedule, you will notice those other pillars of health begin to crumble. Think of sleep as the base for your healthy lifestyle and everything else can fall into place.